We’ve got so much to be thankful for
Peter Seal, 20 September 2020
Proverbs 3: 13–18; 2 Corinthians 4: 1–6; Matthew 9: 9–13
It is a very great privilege to stand here on this new dais, and each of you sitting on a new good floor. It is good to be here again. I think my main theme of this short homily is that of thanksgiving.
I’m mindful of the church down the ages: those who set out to build this place, completing first simply that bit beyond the arch. What faith! 1872. They didn’t know whether they were going to be able to afford any more. And gradually, until 1910 when it was complete, they added bits. We stand within a great tradition.
And of course it goes back much, much, much farther. St Matthew, apostle and evangelist, reminds us of that – we ourselves, with our parish church, as they like to be called, where at 11.15 nine or ten people will meet for Mattins, and that’s really good. We stand in a great tradition.
By God’s grace we, the people here, the people of this place, have truly wonderfully been able to renew the inside of this building. So much generosity! So much hard work! Actually, so many miracles. Together, and with so many others, we have achieved a place and a space which will provide for both church and community for decades, decades to come.
By God’s grace we have truly wonderfully been able to renew the inside of this building. So much generosity! So much hard work! Actually, so many miracles.
One of the wonderful things is that it still feels very very much like the church. Someone came in the other day, not been in before, walked this way, and then she turned round and said, ‘Oh, there’s all that too at the back!’ She literally hadn’t noticed it. It felt like the church. Praise be!
I’m thinking back to being at Western; it seems a lifetime or more ago. As one older worshipper who has now died said to me one Sunday morning as he left Western, ‘This will be an adventure in our memories’. And truly it is. I think we could say to one another, we were actually doing so well. It was working; there were some distinct advantages; most of us liked it a lot. But that was, as you know, cut short.
As I move just to say something about more recent months, I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work Mary Copping has done for our children and young people, in keeping in contact and faithfully, with Olli Wilson-Smith, producing that weekly film that has been so much appreciated. Mary, thank you.
It’s very frustrating that at this stage we can’t see a way of including children and families easily and in a relaxed way for them, but Mary and her team are working on it and planning for a Family Service at a different time in a few weeks.
And then lockdown. And I think what we really missed, really missed most of all, was one another. Just being able to see and be with one another. Zoom, and weekly filming, have been wonderful. But … as we’ve travelled through this time, we’ve learned that there’s no substitute for being with and seeing one another. You could describe this as ‘real presence’. There’s nothing virtual about this morning – it’s completely real presence.
What we really missed, really missed most of all, was one another. We’ve learned that there’s no substitute for being with and seeing one another. You could describe this as ‘real presence’.
And you know, throughout the building work, the builders have commented on how much they have enjoyed this project, how much they have liked being in this place, how much they’ve felt the atmosphere and the prayer-soaked walls. And this surely is in part due to the fact that Jesus has always been here.
Can I turn for a moment? His presence has been made manifest in what’s called the aumbry in that left-hand wall, where on our last Sunday service together I took two of the consecrated wafers and left them there in one of the tiny containers known as a pyx (good Scrabble word for points!). And there the presence of the Lord in blessed bread has been – through drillings and sawings and everything that’s gone on, including their own music – the Lord has remained here in what is often described as ‘the real presence’.
After we receive Communion, I shall take the blessed bread that’s left over and I will put it new into the aumbry later on, and I’ll consume the two wafers from a year ago. Jesus is always here, in all sorts of ways, but also in that particular way, and the light behind me in the centre symbolises that.
A week on Saturday – God willing, lockdown allowing – Liz Stuart will be ordained as a priest. Two weeks today (that’s the next day), Liz will preside at our celebration of the Eucharist. This is a big day for her. And it’s also a big day for us. Our parish will have a new priest. Praise God!
Liz will be the first to tell you that it’s nothing to do with her worthiness; nothing to do with her gifts, many and varied as we have discovered they are. It’s because the Lord has called her, and blessed her, and forgiven her, and renewed her, and is drawing her.
She won’t celebrate the Eucharist, because we all do that. She will preside for us at the celebration. As today, as at every Eucharist, we’re all celebrants. The priest happens to have the unique privilege of presiding. So, please continue to pray for Liz. Sadly, because of numbers, only Mary and I will be able to be with her in the cathedral, but a few more, like today, will be able to come the next day.
So, by way of conclusion, we’ve got so much to be thankful for. Hooray! Alleluia! Praise the Lord! To the Lord are we ever thankful, etcetera! And we’ve also, in a sense symbolised by Liz’s ordination, got a very great deal to look forward to. So, the phrase that I’m deeply helped by, myself, ‘We live in sure and certain hope’. Praise be!